Introducing New Baby to Siblings:
Easy Tips To Follow & Things To Remember!
Back in September (2012) I discussed a few tips and methods to use when introducing pregnancy and baby to your child(ren). Having a new baby in the home can be a huge change for children, but luckily we can make the transition as easy as possible and a happy experience for everyone. My little girl will be here in 20 DAYS, so I am starting to increase the discussion about a new baby around our home and help my son understand that this is very real. Introducing new baby to our son is very exciting, but we’re also nervous!
We didn’t hide the idea of a new baby at all and actually told our son that I was expecting a baby the second we found out. While other parents may prefer to wait a few months, I did discuss this with my husband and we both decided it would be okay to tell our son early on. Looking back, I have no regrets and think that has helped him understand the process as a whole. However, I am now at the point where I have to help him make the distinction between ‘a baby is coming’ and ‘a baby is here’.
Remember… my son is only 3 1/2 years old. He does understand that mommy is having a baby, but I think he’s somewhere in between total comprehension mixed with a touch of confusion over how’real’ this is going to turn out in the end. I’ve done a lot of preparing, research, and consideration of how to make this a memorable and loving experience for both of my children. Here’s what we have been doing, tips we will start implementing this month, and ideas on how to keep everyone included and happy when introducing baby!
Prepare Through Perspective
While you’re in the hospital, your toddler is probably going to be much more interested in what is going to happen to him instead of what’s happening to you. While it is of course important to tell your child that you will be in the hospital for a few days and doctors will take care of you, I am trying to remember the perspective of my 3-year-old. Of course he cares about what mom is doing, but he is also a toddler and much more concerned about whether or not his toys will come along for the hospital adventure.
Tell your child(ren) what the plan is for their days while you are at the hospital. Stress how much fun he will have playing with grandma while they wait to hear news about his new brother or sister. Mention the crayons and coloring books that he will have to color and cookies that grandma wants to bake. Remind him that he is going to have a great time while you are at the hospital, but how much you will look forward to his visits. Encourage your significant other or relatives to bring your child to the hospital as much as possible for sibling visits so that you aren’t bringing a stranger home. Let your children become well acquainted early on.
Happy Homecoming for Everyone
This is a time for your new baby to enjoy the spotlight, but try to make everyone feel equally important. Try to avoid talking about your homecoming as if it is just for baby. Be sure to acknowledge that this is a homecoming for the entire family to celebrate coming together again with your newest addition.
Conversing for Baby
Help your child interact and socialize with his new sibling by explaining what the baby is thinking. Tell your child how much the new baby enjoys when he holds his finger tight, or thinks its fun to see him playing with his toys! Help your child(ren) see the new baby as a ‘real’ person by being the translator and tool of communication between the two as they both strive to develop a relationship. Even though your new baby cannot talk or communicate early on, it is important to try and speak for the baby so the siblings gain a strong relationship from the beginning.
Gifting for All
Anyone that has a younger sibling knows how it goes: new baby is born, new baby get gifts, older children are left sitting in the background bored out of their minds. I have two younger brothers and remember how it felt to see both of them receive the attention as I felt left out. I was only 4 and 6 years old when they were born, so I was vulnerable to overwhelming emotions that left me feeling sad and out of the loop with my family.
Don’t count on your friends and family members to include your child(ren) in the celebration and excitement of a new baby. Wrap up a handful of small gifts and keep them handy for situations that call for a little bit of extra attention for your toddler and/or other child(ren). Your new baby will be showered with gifts and love from friends, so don’t let the jealousy and sibling rivalry begin so soon!
You don’t need to spend a lot – think "stocking stuffers". We’ve set aside a handful of gifts for our son that are all valued under $20.00. Two Christmas gifts were delivered late last week, so I have reserved those toys for the hospital visit with my son. I’ve purchased ‘big brother’ books and t-shirts to read (and wear) with my son the night before I had to the hospital, too.
I went out and spent less than $10.00 on crayons and new coloring books, which he will receive (one at a time) as guests stop by and throw attention on the new baby. We did purchase one larger item ($45.00), which we will give our son on ‘homecoming’ day. How much you spend and what you decide to buy is up to you. We have tried to purchase gifts for our son that will help him feel like he is involved and his help is needed as he transforms into the big brother role!
Share Your Time
This has been one of my biggest concerns ever since I found out that I was pregnant with my second child. My little boy has received undivided attention from mom and dad ever since he was born (April 2009). He’s spoiled, constantly has all eyes on him, and attention is always (and only) on his needs and wants. How am I going to give my son all of the attention that he is used to receiving while trying to hold, feed, care for, and tend to our newborn babies needs?
Newborns require a lot of maintenance and love, so it seems virtually impossible to say that I can realistically divide my attention throughout the day to make sure everyone feels the same amount of love. I don’t want to overrun myself into the ground, so I’ve thought of a few simple things that I can do to ensure my son gets attention while I am feeding or changing the baby. It’ll be easy enough to hold the baby bottle while reading a book to my son (ask your toddler to hold the book and flip pages as ‘mommy’s helper’). I can also hold a conversation with my son about his favorite toys while changing diapers, too. Keeping an open ear and at least listening or talking back will show my son that I am here — and I am listening.
Daddy, daddy, daddy!
Since I am a stay-at-home mom, I am used to playing mom and dad during the day. However, I am going to take 100% of the attention that my son has received and divide it in half as the new baby requires a lot of care and attention. As much as mom can push and divide her attention during the day so that all children are included, it’s obvious that she will need to spend more time with the new baby. It’s important that the older child(ren) don’t feel left out as they lose some of moms attention, so dad will have to step in at night and takeover in her absence.
My son is already latching onto daddy (big time) at night and seems to think that mommy is boring (that’s not cool!). I am tired (all of the time) and a little grumpier than usual (just a little though!), so my son has already been showing a lot of excitement and much more enthusiasm over daddy than mommy. Mom should reserve one-on-one dates with the older child(ren) and dad should set aside time for the new baby, too. However, we will make sure that my husband brings our son on fun father/son outings while I am home taking care of the new baby.
We will make it a juggling act with a 1-on-1 ratio at all times. Since we have two adults and two kids, mom will have all attention on one child while dad cares for the other. Of course this won’t be how things will always go, but it’ll have to work during the first few weeks while baby requires an overwhelming amount of attention. Since our new baby is being born in January, I can’t start family outings for a few weeks (at least). This is why it’ll be important for dad to take our toddler OUT while I stay home and care for our newborn indoors.
We’re a Family, Inc.
While your new baby is receiving all of the attention, your other child(ren) may start to feel neglected and not as special as his new sibling. Extend any compliments received to your other children and talk about "the family" as opposed to "the baby". You have a new addition to your family, which is very exciting, but don’t let your toddler overhear friends or passerby’s compliment the ‘beautiful baby" without acknowledging that she has a "beautiful and proud big brother, too!".
Teach Those Talents!
Your toddler won’t know how to bridge the gap or relate to anything that your newborn is doing. He likely doesn’t realize (just yet) that the baby is going to grow and become an active, playing, and talking family member. For now, I am sure my toddler is going to think of the baby just as she is – a baby. Ask your child(ren) if they would like to teach the baby to do all of those things that he is good at — in a few months/years, of course!
Last week I told my son that his baby sister won’t know how to walk, draw, sit up, or color in the lines. "Do you think you can help mommy out and show her how to use crayons?", I asked my spunky and excited little boy. His response, "… only if she knows how to share", started a great conversation about how I would also love if she learned how to share with his help. He’s a great artist, very creative, and loves sports. All of his talents passed on and taught to his little sister would make mom and dad very proud! Plus, I loved watching him smile as he felt very special that I was actually asking him to use his talents to teach his sister!
Do you have any other tips to share with me as I prepare to introduce my son to his new sister this month? Leave a comment below and help me figure out what else I can do to make this a smooth, happy, and exciting experience for everyone!